My alter ego, you know the sort that pays bills, as a clinician has seen myself attending numerous conferences and symposiums hosted at the function halls of the Royal College of Physicians. And every time I attend these gatherings I look forward to seeing their courtyard garden which has a good selection of exotic plants, most of which grow outside permanently, owing to the shelter provided by the walls of the building, as well as by the 'urban heat island' micro climate in Central London.
With such a favourable micro climate in the city there are so many plants you can grow there that will not do so even if it's planted just outside of it, the periphery of the inner city and beyond. A walk in the city, it's not unheard of to come across large Phoenix canariensis, Butia capitata, Araucaria heterophylla happily growing outside. I've even come across before Ficus elastica, Schefflera arboricola, Crassula ovata, and so many more traditional houseplants growing as outdoor potted plants on various parts within the core of the city. That's how extra warm in the winter and sheltered it is there.
So it's no surprise that some of the plants growing in the courtyard are plants that I wouldn't even attempt to plant out in our garden. But what actually surprises me is, why are those plants growing there? Who has decided to put them there and where did they come from? Some of the plants are not run of the mill ones, with a good chunk of them on the rare side and require some specialist knowledge to take care of them. Questions that I'll take the time to find out the answers to later on (I found some of the answers here). Fascinating!
Funny enough though, despite being there a number of times before I never had the chance to take photos of the garden, always forgetting my camera (you go into work mode on such occasions, where a camera on hand is not necessary). Also, working only five minutes away from it I took it for granted and kept postponing taking photos. But today was the day and with camera tucked in my bag first thing in the morning as I left for work, I popped round on my way back home and finally took those photos.
Btw, if ever you find yourself attending an event there, check out the botanical art in the toilets too. Fine plant art to see as you pee...
Okay, out of the toilet, and into the courtyard we go...
This is the first area you get in to if you enter the garden via the steps from the basement. It is also possible to access the gardens via the car park outside of the building, although you'll have to get a visitor's pass first from reception.
This area has quite a number of different cycads on display, all of which are rare. From time to time they change the way they display them, and even remember one February day I saw them displayed on the ledge to the right of the photo, all out and no extra winter protection.
A selection of potted exotic plants including a Brugmansia suaveolens on the square pot, Zantedeschia aethiopica on the zinc pot to the right, and Encephalartos natalensis at the back.
Dracaena draco at the center of the alcove with Eryhtrina crista-galli to the right
A selection of various exoticas...
A nice place to sit if you want a breath of fresh air in between talks and presentations.
I'm almost surprised they even bothered to have something as common as Cycas revoluta in their collection ;)
But lots of little unusual ones at the base of it.
A bit of garden ornamentation just to complete the mix.
Musa basjoo as focal point for one of the beds.
And along the same bed you'll find this handsome and glossy leafed Cussonia spicata...
And a stunning and very blue Cussonia paniculata, with Buddleja salvifolia to the left. To the right is a glimpse of a Sparmannia africana.
Dianella tasmanica looking great, not so much for the foliage but for the...
Electric blue berries!
Melianthus major with Gloriosa superba growing and flowering on top of it.
Follow the pathway surrounding the lawn in the middle and you'll spot this corner with a Restio as a focal point, underplanted with a small patch of Eucomis
Beschorneria yuccoides flowering away
Eryngium, Aloe, Euphorbia...
Even an Opuntia...spot of Danger Garden?
Just to complete the dangerous mix, a Yucca rostrata!
These were quite sweet to see, contrasting with the regency building it is leaning to but I also instantly imagined the head gardener pottering in there at various times when she's around.
Whooa, what's that??
Cyathea medullaris, cool!!
Mahonia gracilipes underplanted with Athyrium niponicum var. pictum
Albizia julibrissin providing some canopy (or it could be a Paraserianthes lophantha?)
I suppose you can say this bed is the jungle garden. Fargesia bamboos at the back of the two Dicksonia antarctica
An absolute essential to a jungle garden - Tetrapanax papyrifera
Well why not...Trachycarpus fortunei
Photos can't do justice as to how striking this was in person...glimmering silver blue leaves...
Aloe striatula, the photo of which strangely loaded upside down (quirky enough that I'll keep it as it is)
Didn't I hear someone saying before that there's always an Agave somewhere if you look hard enough? Agave parryi
If you ever find yourself in the area where this institution is, it's well worth the detour to check out the garden, especially if you enjoy exotic plants. And if you do find yourself attending one of the symposiums they host (they don't just host medical type of events but various things too, like last April a symposium on exotic gardening was held here with Dan Hinkley as one of the speakers) try to wiggle out from the crowd during the break and spend some time in their grounds.
Oh, and don't forget the loo...